It will soon be a year since our beloved Maggie took her trip over the rainbow bridge on June 9, 2016. It’s hard to believe. It seems like yesterday that she was happy and free enjoying our good life together.
We consulted with her vet, Dr. Lauren Sanderlin, a wonderfully compassionate woman, for about 45 minutes. She and my wife, Joyce, left the decision of life or death up to me.
Maggie was 11 1/2 years old. That’s 77 in dog years. She had had severe pain for several months in her hips and also had that cursed Cushing’s Disease which caused incessant thirst and hunger. In her latter weeks, I was heartbroken to witness how this horrible disease was sucking the life out of her.
Her hips were bone on bone, and I had to carry her up the steps after she did her business in the yard where just a few months before she passed over she joyfully bounded up the steps back into the house.
She never had had a bad day in her life. She was always happy up until the end. But even then, she never let on that she was in pain. She tried to be her vibrant, happy self, but the pain in her eyes was quite obvious. In the last few days, she could hardly get up from her pallet.
Selfishly, I wanted to keep her a little longer. But, I had to release her. Dr. Sanderlin left it up to me to make the fateful decision. Oh, how I wished she would have made it for me, but she couldn’t. It was mine alone.
Maggie tried to sit up on the examining table. She always tried to please me, and it was if she was trying to please me with all her effort by sitting up for me. But, she couldn’t. Her hips were too far gone. The pain was too intense.
I put my arms and hands under her and lifted her. “Please, please, Maggie stand up,” I prayed silently. And, she did. But, her agony was too much. She laid down again, and she looked at me with those expressive, beautiful, but pained eyes as if to say, “I want to so much. I just can’t. I’m sorry. Please let me go.”
I couldn’t speak. All I could do was nod my head yes.
Dr. Lauren took the syringe and vial and prepared the medicine that would cause her to sleep. She injected it. The drug worked quickly. Within three minutes, she was sleeping peacefully and without struggling.
I petted her. “I love you, Maggie. Mama loves you. We are here with you.”
Then, the good vet prepared the fatal dose. She administered it. Put her stethoscope on Maggie’s chest and the ear piece in her ear. Maggie’s breathing quickly became shallow. She didn’t struggle to breathe. And in less than a minute, she left us. She passed quietly into the other world.
Dr. Sanderlin handed me a box of tissues. I pulled out several. I passed the box to Joyce, and she did the same. Joyce then handed it back to Dr. Sanderlin, and she pulled out several. For a long time, we stood silently around Maggie holding a vigil and wiping our tears.
After Maggie crossed the rainbow bridge, Dr. Lauren said, “Dan, you made the right decision.” That gave me a huge measure of comfort and affirmation as tears flowed down my cheeks.
Dr. Sanderlin loved Maggie too. She was a regular patient. Dr. Lauren had given her vaccinations, treated her for her Cushing’s disease and bad hips. Plus, I had officiated her and Jess’ wedding. We are all very close.
On May 1, 2014, I was playing with Maggie and felt a lump on her underbody. Panic struck. The only thing I could think of was cancer. I called Joyce over to feel it. “It might be cancer. It might not be. We’ll take her to Dr. Lauren in the morning for a biopsy.”
Lauren made an incision, took out the lump, and tested it with the equipment she has in her office.
Negative! Thank God!
To keep Maggie from licking the stitches, she outfitted her with this cone of shame.
She wore it well and even smiled for me in this picture! What a wonderful dog she was!
Maggie was my constant companion and counselor. She lifted me up when I was depressed, and she made me laugh. She understood me, and never left me when I was in my dark place.
Here’s Maggie at my feet during a depressive episode I had. She has a compelling look of concern on her face as if to say, “I’m with you. It will be OK.”
I had been teaching at a tough inner city high school in 2013 and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I had to resign in March before my annual contract was up in order to get some sense of sanity back.
I felt like a failure because I rarely quit anything that I’ve made a commitment to. I was low. Very low.
Then, on top of that, me and my District Superintendent had a disagreement over my ministry at the part-time United Methodist Church where I was pastoring. He fired me in the course of our conversation.
Whew! I was lower than the deepest valley!
Maggie sensed that and would lay by my feet in my man cave to comfort me. She was always there for me.
She loved to swim with us in our pool. Even before we jumped in, she would beat us to it. It was like the game we used to play when I was a kid. “Last one in is a rotten egg!”
When she swam, she splashed the water with her nose. It was a hoot! Lots of fun to watch her. Here’s a short video of her swimming and nose splashing in our pool. There was not another like her!
She slept with us. We needed a king-sized bed instead of the queen we had!
Maggie was involved in everything we did. I guess she thought she was helping. She was delighted in helping Joyce wrap Christmas presents and got a kick helping us unwrap presents. Of course, she always got one too!
She loved to go on trips like to the post office and to see our daughter, Kelly, and our son-in-law, Scott in Macon. Later after they moved to Chicago, Maggie went with us to visit them!
All I had to do was rattle the keys, and she got all excited doing the Sheltie circle ready to go wherever I went. It didn’t matter where. She wanted to be with me.
We practically had to set a place at the table for her too. She’d jump up on the edge of it or sit impatiently waiting for a handout that she knew was forthcoming. She was a delight for us two empty-nesters.
On those very rare occasions in Georgia when it snowed enough to accumulate, she loved going outside with Tipper (in the background) and romping and barking. She was in her element in the cold and snow with her fur coat.
Maggie enjoyed watching the Georgia Bulldogs with me. I was born in Athens. I’m a Bulldog by birth! She was a real fan too. I’d shout, “Git him!” when the opposing running back was making yardage. She’d bark her “Git him” too! So much fun!
At my house, you have to learn to play ball. I coached baseball and softball for many years at the middle school where I taught. So, I had to teach Maggie how to catch and bring the ball back to me. It didn’t take long. She was a great student and caught on quickly. I remember many, many happy times playing ball with her in the yard until her tongue would hang out. It was very sad when it became to painful for her to run and play with me any more. Very sad.
Maggie was my true and loyal friend. She made my life full and abundant. When we got home from grocery shopping, church, or some other event that required us to be gone for a few hours, she welcomed us by barking and doing the Sheltie circle of love.
I even taught her to howl! We could have sung a duet at church!
Oh, and Maggie also loved helping Joyce with the dishes. She did the pre-wash!
God, it was so quiet that first morning without Maggie. I couldn’t stand it. She was supposed to meet us at the door when we got home. But, the house was quiet and empty. I can only hear the echoes of what once was.
Maggie was a blessing from the Lord.
After Maggie died and her body cremated, I put her box of ashes on the bookcase in my office giving me a sense that she is still with me. Maggie lives on in my heart.
I receive consolation from John Wesley’s marvelous sermon, The Redemption of Animals.
I have comfort knowing she is running and playing over there without pain and waiting to welcome me there once again with her Sheltie circle of love and welcome home barks when I join her, and we will be together again.
Good bye old friend. I miss you. I love you.
For those who have lost a beloved pet like me, you will find consolation and comfort in John Wesley’s sermon on “The Redemption of Animals.” Click the link to read it.